Dear Brothers in Christ,
On this Holy Thursday 2015, we are reminded that Our Divine Savior Jesus Christ instituted the sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and Holy Orders that first Maundy Thursday two millennia ago in the Upper Room. Pope Saint John Paul the Great initiated the annual Letters to My Priests early in his papacy. They were inspiring, edifying and illuminating. As you well know, I am no John Paul II and this is certainly not a document of his caliber. Nevertheless, as president of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, I want to extend my hopes and prayers that as brothers in Holy Orders, we can continue the work first entrusted to the Apostles.
Deacons, Priests and Bishops are ordained in and during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This is a poignant reminder to the faithful that these two sacraments are intimately connected. It was no coincidence either that Jesus called all Twelve of His Apostles TOGETHER as one body, one community, one fraternity. The first bishops were made bishops as a group, not individually. Jesus chose 12 men and sent them out two by two and taught them as a group.
This therefore defines Holy Orders as communal. It exists for others, not just for the self. I am a priest to minister to the spiritual needs of my parishioners and the people of my diocese or of my religious community. It is a FRATERNITY of ordained service to Holy Mother Church.
While many of us work in separate assignments and live alone in our own rectories, our priesthood (and diaconate) does not work in a vacuum. We NEED each other just as the Apostles and the Disciples needed each other. We depend on each other’s prayers, example, support and sacrifices. Our Lord spent quality time with His chosen men He would later ordain into sacred service. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI reminded us that the highest and purest work of service we do is that of Divine WORSHIP. The People of God pray to the Lord in private and in public. Sacred Liturgy is never done in private, however. It is always act of divine worship by the Mystical Body of Christ.
Sacerdotal fraternity is therefore not an option, by-product, or secondary effect. It is lifeblood and lifeline to our existence as ordained ministers. Priests and deacons work together and with the Bishops to care for the flock entrusted to them by God Himself.
You and I need to pray for and with one another. We need to spend some time together, whether at monthly chapter meetings and/or at the annual convocations of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy. Some of our brethren feel or act like Lone Rangers, but that is wrong and very dangerous. Remember that the Roman Missal lists only Mass with a Congregation and Mass without a Congregation. There is no mention of a ‘private’ Mass for even a Mass celebrated with one server (or even none) is still an act of the entire Church: Triumphant, Militant and Suffering. A priest never celebrates Mass alone for he is always accompanied in this act of divine worship by the Communion of Saints and the Angelic Hosts.
Hence, it behooves us never to forget or neglect our brethren who ‘feel’ alone. We are our brothers’ keeper. Our fraternity is not merely social, it is spiritual and ontological. There is only ONE Christ, one faith and one baptism. There is only one priesthood and one diaconate. We have to look out for each other. As our brave men and women in the military boldly proclaim, “leave no fellow comrade in arms behind,” neither can we priests and deacons ever leave one of our own behind. The lost, the discouraged, the wounded and the persecuted, NEED us. The CCC and other fraternal associations exist to make us all better servants of the Lord to minister to our brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Spend some quality time, at least once a month and once a year with a few or with several ordained brothers. PRAY for your brothers in the diocese or religious community. Reach out to the estranged and forgotten brethren. Encourage one another to strive to become better clergy by becoming holier clergy. Leave no man behind. Call or visit someone in your class you have not seen or heard from in ages. Pray for all your classmates in ordination and your school-mates in seminary. Help your brothers by being there for them and by praying for them.
Fraternally Yours in Christ,
Fr. John Trigilio